The morning mad dash. The daily grind. It all seems to blur, but there’s a thread that ties most of it together—a stressed, frayed, about-to-break thread.
The house is buzzing with frenetic activity. Mom is bouncing from room to room, prepping for the day, making lunches, listening to excuses, feeding pets, finding lost keys and forcing the day into motion with each nuanced dance step of multi-tasking magic.
Dad is apoplectic. He’s grumbling about work meetings gone awry. He’s frantically searching out missing socks. He’s scarfing down toast, slurping coffee and working himself into a foul mood over chores that have been passively overlooked or persistently avoided.
And the kids. Oh, the humanity! The kids are stumbling over piles of laundry, announcing last minute school projects, shaking their fists at responsibility, engaging in a pitched battle in the war of sibling rivalry and all the while, taking gaping gulps of Snapchat and Minecraft.
Many of your mornings—and mine—end up being lessons in how to live life on the edge of insanity. We’re tired. We’re overwhelmed. We’re rushed. And, we’re too close to the action to see dangerous ruts that we might be carving into life’s journey.
Establishing better boundaries around social media and phone use would be one giant step in the right direction for many of our families. Especially in the light of what seems to be a growing distance between common ground that children and parents share regarding phone use.
Recently, Above the Fray launched a survey that had sobering findings. Above the Fray is a group of young, tech-savvy researchers and social entrepreneurs trying to guide families into a healthier, wiser use of social media. Their tag-line says it all: “empowering safe and responsible social media users.” You can learn more about their work at beabovethefray.org.
In their survey, the most shocking realization was that we parents aren’t building awareness and engaging in accountability with our kids’ use of social media. When asked, “Do your parents monitor your social media use or online gaming?” just 18 percent of teens said yes. Seventy percent said no. And 12 percent said they aren’t sure. When asked, “Do your parents know your online account passwords?” an astounding 76 percent said no. Thirteen percent said yes. And 11 percent said they aren’t sure.
There are apps that can help provide better control over our children’s use of their phones. For instance, Adelphoi, a start-up in McKinney, Texas, launched a new app for parents called Phone Rules. The app is designed to allow parents to create a child-specific context of healthier phone use. You can ensure that phones are off limits during family time, meals, bedtime and perhaps most importantly, through GPS can prevent texting and driving at the same time (maybe we parents need Phone Rules, too!). There are many other apps that provide similar type rule-setting options.
I would hasten to remind us of the old truism: “rules without relationships lead to rebellion.”
Yes, we need to establish rules about phone and social media use. Yes, there needs to be more control, a healthier use of phones and more accountability provided by parents for their children. The bedrock foundation that this healthy outcome is built upon, however, is the foundation of healthy relationships, not just rules.
If we work on the personal relationships that we have with our children, we will be much more effective at winning their hearts. And that might just allow us to get inside those heads of theirs. Then, maybe—just maybe—we’ll start to glimpse the answer to the age old question, “What’s going on that head of yours?”
It might be an answer that is all too familiar to us already.
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.